Happy birthday Muddy Waters!

muddywaters2Muddy Waters (April 4, 1915-April 30, 1983) was an American musician, commonly thought of as the father of Chicago blues. He has countless hits, but some of his most influential songs were “Rollin’ Stone,” “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” After achieving initial commercial success in Chicago, it is said that Muddy’s appearance in England in 1958 was what ignited the British blues and rock and roll explosion of the 1960s. Muddy spent about twenty years on the backburner at Chess Records, but regained popularity in the 1970s and maintained much of it until his death in 1983. 


 Muddy Waters, whose real name was McKinley Morganfield, was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi in either 1913 or 1915. Muddy claimed at different points in his life to be born in 1913, but some official records show he was born in 1915. Muddy was raised by his grandmother after his mother died shortly after he was born. He spent his childhood working in cotton fields, where he learned call-and-response singing. He was hugely influenced by Delta blues pioneer Son House, who lived nearby. 




Muddy was first recorded by Alan Lomax in 1941, and again in 1943. As Muddy recalled the experience in Rolling Stone Magazine, "He brought his stuff down and recorded me right in my house and when he played back the first song I sounded just like anybody's records. Man, you don't know how I felt that Saturday afternoon when I heard that voice and it was my own voice. Later on he sent me two copies of the pressing and a check for twenty bucks, and I carried that record up to the corner and put it on the jukebox. Just played it and played it and said, `I can do it, I can do it.'” Soon after, he moved up to Chicago to pursue a career as a musician.



Once in Chicago, Muddy worked in a factory and drove trucks by day and performed by night. In 1945, his uncle gave him an electric guitar, and that was allowed him to really be heard above the crowds. 

After his initial success with the smash hit “Rollin’ Stone,” he signed to Chess Records (formerly Aristocrat Records). At first, Chess was hard-lined about who Muddy could record with, but after some cajoling, Muddy was recording with Little Walter Jacobs on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Elga Edmonds (a.k.a. Elgin Evans) on drums, and Otis Spann on piano. 


Muddy went on to influence the likes of Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher, The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones. Muddy’s appearance at the 1960 Newport Festival was a major cornerstone of his career. However, soon after, the folk revival of the 1960s displaced Muddy as a major influence. He came back in the 1970s when he collaborated with blues guitarist Johnny Winter, signing to Winter’s label and releasing Hard Again in 1977, an album that would go on to win a Grammy for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording. 

Muddy was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. He died in his sleep in 1983, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and later awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992.



Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Friday, 04 April 2014
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